My Favourite Productive Bullet Journal Spreads

I feel like most of us have an ambiguous relationship with bullet journals. We love them because they enhance our productivity, give us a place to track our thoughts and create a feeling that we have our lives together. Yet, we hate feeling like we have to live up to the pretty spreads we see all over Instagram and Pinterest. And for this reason I would like to preface this post with an important reminder: your bullet journal absolutely does not have to look pretty in order for it to be effective. In fact, 90% of my bullet journal pages (in particular, weekly spreads) are covered in unsightly scribbles and take under five minutes to set up in the first place.

The reason for why the photos you see in my blog posts are a bit more presentable is because a) I know they will be going up on my blog and I want to create a pleasing experience for my readers and b) doing cool lettering, doodles and implementing colour schemes on a couple of my bullet journal pages acts, for me, as a creative outlet, which is something I believe most of us need. If you see my revision notes and anything destined to remain hidden from public consumption, you will understand that a messy person like myself with handwriting that can only be described as abysmal needs reassurance that I do posses the hint of artistic competence (lol). What I am trying to say is, do not be put off from starting a bullet journal because an obligation to make it look objectively aesthetic does not exist if this is not something you wish to do.

Now, this post is a collab with Mia, who runs a lifestyle blog called Beautiful, Inspiring, Creative…Life. Not only is she is a super talented blogger with a very unique style and content (featuring many things including productivity, fashion and life advice), but also the loveliest person with an attitude all of us can admire. We bonded over our mutual love for many things, bullet journaling included, and decided to share our favourite spreads used to further productivity and self development. You can check out her post HERE.

And now, let us have a look at some of my ideas, which you may wish to try out if you haven’t already.

1. Reading log or a reading list.

Reading list bullet journal

I know that many people often set themselves a goal of reading more books, whether fiction or non fiction, listening to particular podcasts or watching interesting films. However, achieving this is tricky unless you are keeping yourself accountable. This is the main reason for why you may want to dedicate a page of your bullet journal to some sort of reading list, whether in the form of a space to jot down books you come across and may wish to read in the future, or a more structured ‘to read’ page with tick boxes next to each item. Continue reading “My Favourite Productive Bullet Journal Spreads”

Potato and Aubergine Winter Salad With Tofu

In between complaining about the cold and longing for summer salads, I sometimes remember that winter is one of the best times to get creative with your meals, and that ‘winter’ and ‘salads’ are not mutually exclusive. In fact, winter salads have become one of my recent go-to dishes. They take full advantage of unique seasonal produce and flavours, delivering a hearty meal that combines the health benefits of eating an abundance of fruits and veggies with the warmth we expect from winter cuisine.

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Salads like this one display how healthy eating has to be neither difficult, nor boring and insubstantial even for an appetite as grand as my own (lol), provided you do your research and look beyond how salads are portrayed in popular culture. The key to making them filling usually involves adding a starchy base, such as potatoes in this recipe, and/or a protein. Tofu has to be one of my favourite protein sources for salads because not only can you cook it in such a wide variety of ways, but it also adds a chewier texture to accompany the overall ‘crunch’ of the dish. And if you aren’t a fan of tofu? No problem. Simply emit it or replace with a protein of your choice, such as black beans, lentils, tempeh… The possibilities are really quite endless.

Vegan potato salad recipe

The recipe whatismaria.com brings to you today (since when have I started talking in third person?!) is luxurious as both a main dish and a side. The subtly sweet, velvety flavour of the aubergines harmonises with the ‘crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside’ potatoes which in turn decorate your home in an aroma you will wish to retain for as long as possible (provided you don’t burn them, that is). Serve this straight away, or if meal prep is your cup of tea – store in the fridge for a quick, nourishing pacelunch.

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Potato salad with roasted aubergines

Recently, a week or so of sub-zero temperatures and even a few snowflakes that melted before their collision with the ground gave way to milder temperatures, rendering anything that is not a steaming bowl of oatmeal or soup somewhat socially acceptable. Hence, I will be eating plenty of winter salads over the upcoming weeks. Let me know in the comments if you give this one a go, and whether you like to eat salads in winter too or prefer to keep them reserved for the summer!

Potato salad with roasted aubergines

Potato and Aubergine Winter Salad With Tofu

  • Servings: 2 as a main, 4 as a side
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Luxurious and full of seasonal flavours, this salad is ideal as a comforting main course or a side. Serve straight away or keep refrigerated.

Potato salad with roasted aubergines


Credit: whatismaria.com

Ingredients

  • 750g new potatoes, chopped into quarters
  • 1 small aubergine, chopped into thin circles
  • 1/2 block firm tofu (around 200g)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup purple cabbage, chopped
  • 1 cup spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cucumber, chopped
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • salt and pepper
  • soy yoghurt, to serve

Directions

  1. Preheat an oven to 20 degrees C / 392 F. Boil the potatoes for 10-15 minutes, until soft.
  2. Meanwhile, chop the tofu into bite-sized pieces and toss together in a bowl with the ketchup, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1 tbsp soy sauce and the lemon juice. Leave to stand aside.
  3. Drain the potatoes and wash with cold water. Cover a baking tray with a sheet of baking paper, and lay out the potatoes, sprinkling with the turmeric, the dried rosemary, the remaining paprika and 1 tbsp olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bake in the oven for around 30 minutes, until crispy on the outside.
  4. Cover a separate baking tray with a sheet of baking paper, and lay out the aubergine slices. Drizzle with 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp olive oil, the chopped parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Bake in the oven for around 20-25 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, heat some cooking spray in a non-stick frying pan on a medium-high heat. Add the tofu and fry for around 10 minutes, stirring at frequent intervals, until firm and slightly crispy.
  6. In a large mixing bowl, combine the potatoes, the tofu, the cabbage, the spinach leaves, the cucumber, the cherry tomatoes and a pinch of sea salt if desired. Serve with the roasted aubergine slices and a few tablespoons of soy yoghurt.

Vegan winter salad recipe

Lots of love, Maria ♡

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Why and How I Became a Morning Person

Before you run away screaming, I am not here to regurgitate the same sentences weaved into the net of health-conscious media, waiting to catch anyone with even a slight appetite for self improvement. Countless articles promote an identical vision of what a morning looks like in the life of a successful human being: waking up at 4:00am, drinking green smoothies (sorry, but I am more of an oatmeal/toast kinda gal), meditating as the sun rises above the horizon…

How to be a morning person

Waking up earlier

If this applies to you, fantastic. But if you are someone who is more productive at night, or simply has a work schedule that renders early mornings impossible, you keep doing you. There isn’t an objectively right or wrong way to live, and if your current routine works in your favour there may be no reason to change it. However, I am here with no purpose other than to tell you my personal story, of how I turned from a night owl into an early bird (meanwhile turning negative intentions into something positive), outline the benefits I’ve derived from this change and offer some helpful tips to anyone who wishes to start waking up earlier for whatever reason.

Morning person tips

My whole family has a propensity towards rising at what some may consider to be ungodly hours. My dad is usually up at 5 and Mum struggles to sleep in part 6:30. At one point in my life, however – I believe between the ages of 12 and 14 – I wholeheartedly embraced the night owl lifestyle as a means of emulating the habits of my peers. During the school term, I would sleep in as much as my schedule would allow, and during the holidays – threw tantrums over having to wake up earlier than 9. As foreign as it may seem to me now, going to sleep at 6 and waking up at 3 in the afternoon was a common occurrence in my life back in the day.

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So, why did I drastically change my lifestyle and sleeping pattern? Well, it often makes people laugh that the main reason as to why I started forcing myself to wake up at the same ungodly hours as my parents was a newfound ‘love’ for makeup. At the start of year ten I used social media on a on a regular basis, I learned about contouring and highlighting, liquid eyeliner, clip-in hair extensions. At times, my ‘getting ready’ process would take a staggering and a desire, shared by many at that age, to be the ‘pretty girl’ sidelined my love for staying up until ridiculous hours to watch TV series. Gradually, I woke up earlier on weekends due to my unprecedented commitment to an extensive beauty routine. Continue reading “Why and How I Became a Morning Person”

How To Make a Perfect Oatmeal Bowl

Do you ever come across those ridiculously photogenic oatmeal bowls topped with exotic fruit sourced from the soils of Narnia on Instagram and sigh with jealousy? After all, given the popularity of oatmeal/porridge as a breakfast option, what percentage of the general population actually has the time to create a Louvre-worthy masterpiece before jumping into their daily routine?

How to make oatmeal

Well, first of all, let us quickly address the question of Instagram vs. reality (something that will doubtlessly necessitate a blog post of its own in the future). For many people, myself included, food styling is a creative outlet, and those pretty bowls are tailored entirely towards their respective Instagram feed as opposed to being a realistic representation of what their creators eat 90% of the time. Sometimes, I will make a bowl of oatmeal whenever my schedule allows (mostly in the late afternoon), photograph it for Instagram and store it in the fridge to be eaten the next morning. In other words, if I have to make porridge right before my six a.m. shift, only a very large sum of money could induce me to post the un-photogenic but nonetheless delicious outcome on social media.

Moreover, spicing up your oatmeal does not have to require enormous amounts of effort and culinary/artistic talent. You can make it as pretty or as ugly as you like, and adjust it in accordance with your individual preferences (this may be something that oatmeal and bullet journals have in common?!). After receiving positive feedback on my step-by-step Buddha bowl guide, I decided to build a guide to oatmeal on the same principle for anyone who wants to go beyond microwave oats in terms of both taste and nutritional value. As always, feel free to skip any of the steps I outline below and/or add anything else – after all, it is your life, your oatmeal, and no one can tell you what to do!

Vegan oatmeal recipe

1. Pick a milk  Continue reading “How To Make a Perfect Oatmeal Bowl”

My January Bullet Journal Setup

I approach any trend with a degree of scepticism. I question whether it is right for me, just because it has worked for a seemingly large portion of the population (to give an example, I totally learnt the hard way that I do not suit Instagram eyebrows). That’s why, despite months of gawking at pages of calligraphy and daily tasks organised into immaculately drawn boxes, I procrastinated on starting a bullet journal.

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I feared regular journaling would become a waste of time without delivering any tangle benefits – after all, I am not too bad at organisation, and didn’t want to fix something that isn’t broken. I thought my Instagram was enough of an artistic outlet, and my blog – an ideal place to share my thoughts. So, what made me ask for my first bullet journal for Christmas and jump abroad the band wagon? Turns out, as with all occurrences throughout history (yes, I am convinced that Maria getting a bullet journal will be scrutinised by future academics and I am simply trying to facilitate their job), there are several reasons:

a) I want to spend less time on technology: at the moment, I rely on everything from Google Docs to various calendar apps to organise my life. While this gets the job done, I personally benefit from spending less time on digital devices, and find that physically writing stuff down helps cement tasks and intentions in my mind much more than typing.

b) I want to keep things in one place: to explain what I mean, at the moment I track the different aspects of my life in different documents and notebooks. The books I’ve read, the articles I wish to write, how much money I’ve spent… While I will keep this system because it allows me to explore these things in greater detain than an A5 spread, my bullet journal will provide an overview of my life at a glance, a place to jot down things before they escape my head. Plus, we all benefit from being concise on occasion, from focusing on the bigger picture as opposed to the finer details.

c) I want to overcome my fear of tracking thoughts, feelings and emotions: we all know that writing is therapeutic. But up until now, I have been writing as a form of distraction, not acceptance of how I actually feel. For example, if I am angry or upset, I will start doing an outline for an upcoming blog post or write a poem about a completely unrelated topic. I don’t think I have ever kept a diary for more than a couple of days. Honestly, my inhibition is a fear of saying something cheesy, and not having much to write because sometimes I struggle with articulating my emotions in the first place. However, in the absence of deeper sentiments to express, it doesn’t hurt to write an outline of my day before bed, and if being cheesy anywhere is acceptable, it is in a private journal firmly hidden from the public’s eyeshot.

d) Many moments in life are elusive, and with time seeming to move exceptionally fast as of recent, it is easy to forget the little things that happen on a day-to-day basis, the ones which make you smile before dissolving into the monotony of our daily routines. Sometimes, it’s difficult to remember anything beyond the most significant of events. In December 2018, however, I want to be able to recall what made each month special and relive the moments I have managed to capture from each day/week.

Needless to say, I was ecstatic to discover this beautiful bullet journal from Leuchtturm 1917 among my Christmas presents and used it to pass the time while my delicious lentil and mushroom pie was baking away. And since then, I have been obsessed, creating a new board on my Pinterest to collect all of the wonderful ideas I want to implement into my pages throughout the year. What I adore the most is just how much you can personalise your journal. We all live vastly different lives, have vastly different aesthetic tastes, and we can tailor our bullet journal spreads to our preferences as much as we like. Thus, if you are new to this as I am, I encourage you to ponder deeply about what exactly you want to derive from journaling: is it organisation, a therapeutic effect, a place to keep track of thoughts and memories? What are the significant components of your life: your fitness journey, your blog, your career? Be flexible, and keep in mind that these may change in accordance with the constant meander of life.

(Just to give an example: I know I am a sensible spender, reserving not much more than a minute corner to track my expenditure, yet if you are someone who wishes to tighten their spending habits, setting up a detailed expense tracker may be beneficial.)

To save me from further rambling, let’s have a look at my bullet journal:

January Bullet Journal

Monthly bullet journal spread

Continue reading “My January Bullet Journal Setup”

Russian Pirozhki With Two Potato Fillings (Vegan)

Before we jump into my obligatory ramble about the recipe, I would first of all like to wish you all an outstanding 2018. May you achieve everything you wish to achieve, finally live up to your New Year’s resolutions. May all of your dreams and intentions come true. And if they don’t? Well, any experience whether successful or unsuccessful, is worth learning from. You still have your entire life ahead of you. My 2017 was a year characterised by uncertainty and interminable ups and downs: I experienced some brilliant moments, many lows and had to make a few life-changing decisions. I learnt a lot not only about myself, but also the world around me and how I fit into it. Regardless of what it may be, I cannot wait for anything 2018 shall bring forth.

Vegan Pirozhki recipe

Vegan Pirozhki

Anyway, as I am writing up this blog post I am totally dreaming of the celebratory meal we had last night. As you may or may not know, I grew up in Russia, and while Russian people do not celebrate Christmas, they have a strong New Year’s Eve tradition and much like Christmas it is a time for spending time with family, giving gifts, eating copious amounts of food (I am talking to the extent that at times, there isn’t enough room on the table for people to actually set down their plates). There is even a Russian Santa (‘Ded Moroz’), but he wears blue as opposed to red. And in general, food happens to be an enormous part of Russian culture: for example, if someone visits your home and you hadn’t prepared a three course meal for their arrival and brewed several cups worth of tea, you become the definition of impertinent. Continue reading “Russian Pirozhki With Two Potato Fillings (Vegan)”

The Ultimate Guide to Setting New Year’s Resolutions

I could write a dramatic account of fireworks blazing through the sky, cheers and the champagne glasses of my friends colliding as the clock strikes midnight. However, a much more realistic New Year’s Eve scenario in the life of Maria is one in which the protagonist is laying in bed, not wanting to miss the onset of 2018, while longing for the magical hour when it is (more or less) socially acceptable to go to sleep on that particular night.

New Year's Resolutions

Regardless of how you wish to enter 2018, the start of a new year is always monumental. On the first of January, we awaken feeling the same, but fundamentally altered at the same time. It is enshrined in our society as a turning point, as the sort of fresh start a new week or month are incapable of delivering, a blank canvas from which we, as humanity, can work to create a better joint experience for us all. The previous year’s misfortunes are left behind and we hope the upcoming twelve months will feature more ups than downs. Of course, this is often subverted as time as merely a social construct and a shift from one year to the next will not in itself stop bad things from happening, but my point is that New Years Eve holds immense symbolic value in all of our minds.

Undoubtedly, many of us have been writing down New Year’s resolutions over the last few weeks – a process which will intensify now that the pressures of Christmas are over. Me personally? Yes and no. There are certain personal things I wish to work on in the upcoming year (concerning, for the most part, my emotional wellbeing and habits) that I’ve been procrastinating on because I know I will have to fundamentally alter my mindset to tackle them. However, many of my goals are very ‘long term’ and my individual preference is reiterating them whenever the need arises, as opposed to waiting for a new year, and setting shorter term objectives on a monthly, weekly and daily basis. In addition to that, 2018 is the year I officially start university, meaning that as my life undergoes an upheaval so will the nature of the things I wish to achieve. Continue reading “The Ultimate Guide to Setting New Year’s Resolutions”